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SEMARANG, Feb 17, 2017–Twice a week Petrus Legiman leaves home early in the morning on a motorbike fully loaded with vegetables packed in bamboo containers, and rides to a local market where he sells the crops from his farm.
Dozens of other farmers from several villages also sell their produce and products, such as vegetables, rice, fruit, and many homemade foods — all organic, at the Pasar Rebo (Wednesday market).
The market started in June 2016 and is managed by the Sanjaya Pastoral Center in Muntilan, Central Java, which comes under Semarang Archdiocese.
It covers an area of 1,000 square meters. During the early days the market opened only on Wednesdays, hence the name, but later due to high demand it’s now open on the weekend.
“I sell vegetables every Wednesday and Saturday here,” says Legiman, 51.
Siti Maemunah, a housewife from nearby Kalipepe, says she has been going to the market for the last two months after she heard people talking about it and the quality of the produce.
“I like the organic vegetables here because I believe organic produce is good for the health,” she says.
Agatha Widiarsih, a parishioner at St. Antony Church in Muntilan, also buys organic produce at the market because of the good quality, and freshness.
“Prices here are cheaper compared to supermarkets,” says Widiarsih, an expectant mother, adding that she will continue to buy organic vegetables and fruits for the health of her family.
Father Alexius Dwi Aryanto, head of the Social and Economic Development Commission of Semarang Archdiocese, says the market is part of the archdiocese’s efforts to help local farmers and the environment.
“By encouraging organic farming we preserve nature,” he says.
A year before the market opened, Pope Francis through his encyclical Laudato si’, called on mankind to care of the environment, which has inspired Catholics throughout the world.
The market is in line with the archdiocese’s pastoral guidelines emphasizing an inclusive, innovative and transformative church, with the goal of establishing a more prosperous and dignified society, Father Aryanto says.
Similarly, Father Lambertus Issri Purnomo, the brains behind the market, says the idea was to improve the productivity of organic farmers who were left behind in the country’s development process.
The church trained and equipped them with necessary skills, including how to market their products to attract buyers in order to make more profit.
Farmers are king
The good thing about organic farmers having a designated place to sell their produce is that they control prices, unlike before when middlemen determined the price.
“Greedy middlemen usually take advantage of farmers, especially poor ones,” Father Purnomo said.
“Now I’m making a profit because I can determine the price of my vegetables. Before the market existed, middlemen bought them all below the usual price,” says Legiman.
According to the Indonesian Organic Farmers Association back in 2010 organic farmers in and around Muntilan were farming more than 239,000 hectares. However there was no special market where they could sell their crops.
“I hope this will grow and become a center for organic produce in Central Java,” says Father Purnomo.
The market’s coordinator Sigit Triyono says the church-run market has not only been effective in helping farmers sell their produce, its also allows the exchange of ideas with customers. Here farmers listen to what their customers need.
Triyono says market managers and farmers have to be creative to meet market demands, such as good packaging.
“Good packaging will elevate the price,” he says.
Agustinus Budiarto, secretary of Semarang Archdiocese’s Kedu deanery, says the local Social and Economic Development Commission is promoting the farmers’ organic produce through meetings, visits, and brochures sent out to communities.
“Our dream is that farmers will not only sell crops but also farming equipment,” such as seeds, fertilizer, organic pesticide says Burdiarto, adding they also want to encourage more interest in organic farming. (UCAN)
YANGON, Feb 16, 2017–Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon has said that only the Blessed Mother can unite all who come from different ethnic groups and religions in Myanmar, which has been beset by civil wars, and conflicts in its western and northern regions.
“We need to pray to her that this country may be more peaceful,” Cardinal Bo told thousands pilgrims at a National Marian celebration in Nyaunglaybin, Bago Division on Feb. 11.
The cardinal told the pilgrims that more than 200,000 of their brothers and sisters are refugees in Myanmar due to war and conflicts.
Neither the government nor the U.N. could bring about unity as “our Blessed Mother has done today bringing us all to her center of hope”.
“Peace is the only way and peace with justice is possible,” Cardinal Bo stressed. “Let the queen of peace our mother plead with her son that the emptiness of hope can be filled with the wine of peace.” (UCAN)
VATICAN, Feb. 19, 2017-– After leading the Angelus Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for all those affected by violence and war around the world, particularly the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Iraq, asking pilgrims to offer a moment of silence before leading them in praying the ‘Hail Mary.’
“I think, in particular, of the dear people of Pakistan and Iraq, hit by cruel terrorist acts in recent days,” the Pope said Feb. 19. “We pray for the victims, the wounded and the families. Let us pray fervently that every heart hardened by hatred is converted to peace, according to the will of God.”
A suicide bomber reportedly loyal to the Islamic State attacked devotees at a Sufi shrine in Sehwan, Pakistan, more than 90 miles northwest of Hyderabad, Feb. 16. In addition to the more than 80 killed in the attack, some 250 were wounded.
The same day, a car bomb exploded in Baghdad’s southwestern al-Bayaa neighborhood shortly before sunset, killing at least 55 people and wounding more than 60 others, according to Iraq’s Interior Ministry.
In his message after the Angelus, Pope Francis also highlighted the ongoing violence in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying that he feels a strong sorrow for the victims, especially child soldiers, which he called “a tragedy.”
“I strongly feel sorrow for the victims,” he said, “especially for the many children torn from their families and school to be used as soldiers.”
“I assure you of my closeness and my prayer, for religious and humanitarian personnel working in that difficult region; and renew an urgent appeal to the conscience and responsibility of national authorities and the international community, so that you take appropriate and timely decisions in order to help these brothers and sisters.”
Before leading the Angelus, the Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, which comes from Matthew. In it, Jesus tells his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.”
In this way, “Jesus shows the way of true justice through the law of love that surpasses that of retaliation.” This is how we can “break the chain of evil, and really change things,” Francis said.
“Evil is in fact a ‘vacuum’ of good,” he said, which can only be filled with good, not with another evil, “another void.”
However, this doesn’t mean we are ignoring or contradicting justice, the Pope emphasized. “On the contrary, Christian love, which is manifested in a special way in mercy, is a greater realization of justice.”
“What Jesus wants to teach us is the distinction we have to make between justice and revenge,” he said. “Distinguish between justice and revenge. Revenge is never right.”
We are allowed to seek justice – and it is our duty to do so – he explained, but to take revenge is to incite hatred and violence, which is always wrong.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also tells his disciples to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This does not mean that Jesus in any way endorses the wrongdoing or evil, Francis said. It should be understood as “an invitation to a higher perspective.”
This is the same higher perspective that God the Father has, he noted, who “causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”
No matter what, the Pope continued, our enemies, are in fact still human people, “created in God’s image,” although at the present time they may be tarnished by sin or error.
Francis said that it’s important to remember that our “enemies” may not just be people who are different from us or who live far away, but that in many cases we can speak about even ourselves as enemies, especially to those we come into conflict with on a regular basis, such as our neighbors and family members.
An enemy is anyone who commits a wrong against us, but “to all of them we are called to respond with good…inspired by love,” he said.
“May the Virgin Mary help us to follow Jesus on this difficult path,” he concluded, “which really enhances human dignity and makes us live as children of our Father who is in heaven.”
“Help us to practice patience, dialogue, forgiveness, and so to be artisans of communion and artisans of brotherhood in our daily lives.” (Hannah Brockhaus/CNA/EWTN News)
ILOILO City, Feb. 19, 2017 – For those who have an image of God as a bearded, heavenly boss counting every good deed we do, a priest had this to say: God isn’t interested in what you “do for Him” as He is interested in what He does in you.
“Before we work for Christ, make sure that Christ works in you,” Fr. Joenick Territorio, JCD told some 5,000 delegates, who attended a Holy Mass on the second day of the 24th CFC – Singles for Christ International Conference (ICON) on Feb. 18 at the Western Visayas State University in this city.
“[Being] all out for Christ is a consequence of all in from Christ. I would even dare to say in this context, God is not so much interested in what we do for Him than what He’s doing in us and for us,” he explained.
The director of the Jaro Archdiocesan Commission on Laity said God wants that “what we do for Him is a fruit of what He does in us.”
The priest, who came on behalf of Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, also stressed the external and internal dynamic of faith, formation, and mission.
“Work in, work out; work in formation, work out ministry; work in spirituality, work out morality and social responsibility; work in character, work out conduct; work in solid Christian doctrine, work out duties and responsibilities,” Territorio said, noting that one cannot be without the other.
“We need to have both, we need to have them both but in this order. First, God works in us, then we work for God.”
This year’s SFC ICON themed “All Out for Christ” is inspired by 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 “Be on guard, stand firm in the faith. Be courageous and strong. Your every act should be done in love.”
The international event gathered delegates from 21 countries including China, Singapore, the U.S., Canada, Australia, Poland, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz / CBCPNews)
MANILA, Feb. 19, 2017— Indigenous peoples from the Mountain Province and Ifugao province came down from the mountains to be in solidarity with the thousands of lay people who joined yesterday’s “Walk for Life” in Manila.
Some of them wear their traditional garb and performed a traditional dance as they call for an end to extrajudicial killings and oppose the the death penalty.
They were accompanied by Bishop Valentin Dimoc of Bontoc-Lagawe who affirmed his vicariate’s commitment to the promotion of life and respect for human dignity.
“It is here in Manila that laws and government policies are crafted. Therefore, we join you as brothers and sisters in order to voice our opposition to the culture of death in all forms,” he said.
The young prelate also asked the faithful “take courage and make out light shine” in “the midst of darkness”.
“When we hear expletives or thousands of cusswords, let us not be intimidated and let us remain peaceful,” Dimoc said.
“When we are bullied because of trolls in cyberspace, let us continue to use the Facebook responsibly, make our presence felt, and bear witness to our faith,” he said.
The bishop also encouraged the faithful to continue praying and support the Philippine National Police in cleaning their ranks instead of being pessimistic when they hear crime syndicates inside the PNP.
“In the midst of millions of drug users and surrenderers in our society, let us reach to them with mercy and compassion,” Dimoc added.
“Let us help the victims of crimes! Let justice flow! Let our light shine!” he said. (CBCPNews)
VATICAN, Feb. 18, 2017-– The Christian mission today means facing new challenges with simplicity, holiness, and openness to God, Pope Francis told an audience with the Marian Fathers on Saturday.
“Many still await knowledge of Jesus, the sole Redeemer of man, and many situations of injustice and moral and material hardship challenge believers,” the Pope said Feb. 18. “Such an urgent mission requires conversion at personal and community levels. Only hearts that are fully open to the action of grace are able to interpret the signs of the times and to hear the calls of humanity in need of hope and peace.”
The Pope told the Marian Fathers that their apostolate is a “vast field” constituted by “the urgent need” to bear witness to the gospel before everyone without distinctions.
The Pope received members of the Congregation of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday morning in the Vatican’s Consistory Hall. The congregation, present in 20 countries, is holding its general chapter in Rome from Feb. 5-25.
The Pope encouraged their reflections to be done in fidelity with their founder’s charism and their spiritual heritage while also having “a heart and mind open to the new needs of the people.”
“It is true, we must go ahead towards the new needs, the new challenges, but remember: we cannot go ahead without memory,” Pope Francis said. “It is a continual tension. If I want to go ahead without memory of the past, of the history of the founders, the great figures and also the sins of the congregation, I cannot do so.”
The Marian Fathers was founded by St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary in Poland in 1673. He was canonized in 2016.
Pope Francis told the congregation’s members that their service to God’s word is “witness to the Risen Christ, whom you have met on your journey and whom, with your style of life, you are called to take wherever the Church sends you.”
“Christian witness also requires commitment to and with the poor, a commitment that has characterized your Institute since the beginning,” the Pope continued. “I encourage you to keep alive this tradition of service to the poor and humble, through the proclamation of the Gospel with language understandable to them, with works of mercy and prayer for the souls of the departed.”
The Pope stressed the importance of simplicity as a spiritual foundation.
“We are not princes, sons of princes or counts or barons: we are simple people, of the people. And for this reason we draw close with this simplicity to the simple people and those who suffer the most: the sick, children, the abandoned elderly, the poor … all of them,” he said. “And this poverty is at the heart of the Gospel: it is the poverty of Jesus, not sociological poverty, but that of Jesus.”
Pope Francis invoked the example of Blessed George Matulaitis, a member of the congregation who became Bishop of Vilnius in Lithuania. He was beatified in 1987.
The Pope praised his writings for showing “the total dedication to the Church and to man.” He praised the congregation’s initiatives to spread its charism to poor countries, especially those in Africa and Asia.
“The great challenge of enculturation requires that today you proclaim the Good News using languages and methods comprehensible to the men of our time, involved in processes of rapid social and cultural change,” the Pope said.
The pontiff asked the Marian Fathers to show courage in their service to Jesus Christ and the Church. He said that God can draw great things out of smallness and unworthiness.
“Our smallness is in fact the seed, that then germinates, grows; the Lord waters it, and in this way it goes ahead,” the Pope said. “But the sense of smallness is that first impulse towards trust in the power of God. Go, go ahead on this road.”
Pope Francis prayed for the congregation’s journey of faith and growth. (CNA/EWTN News)
VATICAN, Feb. 17, 2017-– Nur Essa, a Muslim Syrian woman whose family was brought to Rome from Lesbos by Pope Francis last April, said that the openness he has shown to those of different faiths has deeply impressed her.
“For me, I was surprised,” she told CNA. “(He is) very open to all of the cultures, all of the religions, and he sets an example for all the religious people in the world, because he uses religion to serve the human being.”
Essa, 31, has met the Pope on several occasions, most recently during the Pope’s visit Feb. 17th to Roma Tre University, a public research university in Rome where she currently studies.
She was one of four students of the university to ask the Pope a question, which he answered during his visit.
Essa’s question was about the integration of immigrants in Italy: what they must do to integrate into their host country, but also what the rights of the immigrant are.
Before this, Essa and her husband and their little boy met Pope Francis when he brought them to Rome April 16th, 2016, along with two other Syrian refugee families who had been staying in a camp on the Island of Lesbos. She said that the Pope greeted them and blessed her son.
Essa also had an opportunity to speak with him at length when they were invited to be guests at a lunch Aug. 11th at the Vatican, which Essa said was an “honor.”
“He’s very, very modest, a very simple man, a very real human being,” she said.
Essa has both an undergraduate degree and a master’s in microbiology, and is studying biology at Roma Tre.
She said that she and her husband are both from the city of Damascus in Syria and chose to flee the country because her husband had been asked to join the military service there.
They went from Damascus to Turkey, and then from Turkey to Greece, where they stayed in a refugee camp for one month before they were fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the families the Pope brought back to Rome.
Pope Francis visited Roma Tre University at the request of the Dean of the university, who wanted to invite a public figure for the university’s 25th anniversary.
According to Fr. John D’Orazio, who is a Catholic chaplain assigned to the university by the Diocese of Rome, the last pope to make a formal visit was St. John Paul II for the university’s 10th anniversary in 2002.
The chaplaincy just finished constructing its first Catholic chapel for students nearby to the university, something they’ve been wanting to do for a long time, Fr. D’Orazio said.
He said that although students don’t live on campus, they still try “to create opportunities for students to meet together” and to reflect on their Catholic faith and “what it means for them in their own studies and in being citizens in today’s world and in society.”
It’s a very diverse campus, he said, with students of no faith or of different religions, including Muslim students. “I think it’s very interesting and beautiful to be a chaplain inside of a state university,” he said, “because it means creating dialogue, creating collaboration.”
“It’s almost like mission work, because you’re working in a place where there are all kinds of different people, different backgrounds, different points of view. So it’s a good place to create bridges,” he said.
“Pope Francis talks a lot about creating bridges and not walls. And I think that also the chaplaincy in a state university is all about creating bridges of dialogue and collaboration.” (Hannah Brockhaus/CNA/EWN News)
VATICAN, Feb. 17, 2017-– On Friday Pope Francis paid a visit to Rome’s “Roma Tre” university, stressing to students the importance of dialogue, listening and integration in putting an end to the fear that can at times be generated in the face of welcoming new migrants.
“Migrations are not a danger, they are a challenge to grow,” the Pope said Feb. 17, adding that “it’s important to think well about the problem of migrants today, because there’s a migratory phenomenon that’s so strong.”
“How must migrants be received? How must they be welcomed?” he asked, stressing that first, they must be viewed “as human brothers and sisters. They are men and women like us.”
Second, “every country must see how many they are able to welcome,” he said, noting that while it’s true that a country shouldn’t take on more than they have the capacity to handle, each one must play their part.
However, part of welcoming, he said, means “to integrate. That is, to receive these people and try to integrate them so they can learn the language, look for a job, a house, integration.”
Pope Francis spoke to students during a morning visit to Rome’s “Roma Tre” University, which has a school for Economics and Business Studies, with departments for architecture, economics, philosophy, communications, law, engineering, language and culture, math and physics, political science, business and humanities.
After arriving and greeting the rector of the university, Professor Mario Panizza, as well as the university’s General Director and Vice Rector, the Pope listened to questions posed by four students at studying in different fields, and responded with a lengthy, off-the-cuff speech.
One of the questions was posed by Nour Essa, a Syrian refugee who fled to Lesbos with her husband and young son. After spending a month in a refugee camp, they were selected to be among the 12 refugees who flew back to Rome with Pope Francis after his April 16, 2016, visit to the island.
Now, almost a year later, Essa has learned Italian and is completing her studies in Agriculture and Microbiology. She asked the Pope how to overcome the fear that welcoming so many migrants into Europe will destroy its cultural identity.
In his response to Essa’s question, the Pope stressed the importance of accompanying new migrants in a process of integration, and pointed to the fact that within three days of arriving in Italy, the children who came back with him from Lesbos were already in school.
When three months later he invited 21 Syrian children to join him for lunch at the Vatican, they all “spoke Italian,” Francis said. “The older ones a bit less, but they all spoke it. They went to school and learned it. This is integration.”
He noted that the majority of migrants who came back that day have both a job and a person to help them integrate into the culture by providing “open doors” to find work, school and housing, voicing his desire for more organizations dedicated to helping in the process of integration.
On the point of the fear of losing one’s cultural identity by welcoming so many migrants, the Pope said he often asks himself “how many invasions has Europe had since the beginning? Europe was made from invasions, migrants…it was made like this in an artisanal way.”
Migrants, he said, bring their own culture which is “a richness for us,” but must also receive part of the culture they come to so that a real “exchange of cultures” takes place.
“Yes, there is fear, but the fear is not only of migrants,” but of those who commit crimes, he said, and, pointing to the bombing of an airport and subway in Belgium last year, noted that the persons who carried out the attacks “were Belgians, born in Belgium.”
They were the children of migrants, but migrants that had been “ghettoized,” rather than integrated, he said, explaining that fostering respect for one another can “take away” this fear of different cultures.
In addition to responding to Essa’s question, Pope Francis also took questions from three other students studying in different fields at the university.
The students were Roman-born Niccolo Romano, who asked about how universities can work maintain their “communis patria,” or “common homeland” for all; Giulia Trifilio, who asked the Pope what “medicine” is needed in order to combat violent acts in the world; and Riccardo Zucchetti, who asked how students can work to constructively build society in an increasingly changing and globalized world.
In response to Trifilio’s question on how to put an end to the violent acts humanity at times seems prone to throughout the world, the Pope spoke about the importance of language and “the tone” that’s frequently used, even in casual conversations.
Whether at home or on the street, many people today “yell,” he said, explaining that unfortunately “there is also violence” in the way people express themselves.
He also pointed to the arbitrary greetings between even family members, who in a morning rush pass by with a quick, yet meaningless “hey” while on the way out the door. Even these seemingly small things, he said, “make violence” because they make the other person “anonymous,” taking away their name.
“There’s a person in front of us with a name, but I greet you like you are a thing,” he said, noting that this starts at the interpersonal level, but “grows and grows and grows and becomes global.”
“No one can deny that we are at war. This is a third world war in pieces,” Francis said, adding that “we need to lower the tone a bit; to speak less and listen more.”
As a remedy, the Pope suggested the ability to listen and receive what the other person is saying as the first “medicine” to take, with dialogue as a second.
“Dialogue draws near, not only to the person, but hearts. It makes friendship. It makes social friendship,” he said, adding that where there is no dialogue, “there is violence.”
“I spoke of war. It’s true, we are at war, but wars don’t start there, they start in your heart, in our hearts, when I am not able to open myself to others, to respect others, to speak with others, to dialogue with others, war starts there.”
This must also be practiced at the university level, he said, explaining that a university must be a place where discussion takes place among students, professors and groups. If this doesn’t happen, “it isn’t a university.”
Pope Francis cautioned against what he termed as “university of the elite,” or the so-called “ideological universities” where students go, are taught one line of thinking, and then prepared “to make an agenda of this ideology” in society.
“That is not a university,” he said. “I go to university to learn, yes, but to learn to live the truth, to seek the truth, to seek goodness, to live beauty and seek beauty. This is done together on a university path that never finishes.”
In response to the question about building up society amid rapid changes and increasing globalization, the Pope said an important lesson that has to be learned is to “take like as it comes.”
With so many changes mean there is a great need for flexibility, he said, using the example of being ready to catch a ball from whatever direction it comes in.
He also emphasized the importance of unity, which is “totally different than uniformity.” Unity, he said, means “to be one among differences. Unity in diversity.”
Since we are living in “an age of globalization,” Francis said it would be “a mistake” to think of globalization like a ball in which each point is equally far from the center.
If organized this way, “everything is uniform” and there is no differences, he said, but stressed that “this uniformity is the destruction of unity, because it takes away the possibility of being different.”
On the rapid pace of communications in modern society, Pope Francis recognized that “an acceleration” is taking place, and pointed to the rule of the Law of Gravity, that as an object falls faster as it nears its destination.
“Today communications are like this with the danger of not having the time to stop oneself, to think, to reflect, and this is important, to get used to communicating, but without the sensation of ‘rapidity,’” he said.
At times communication goes so fast that it “can become liquid, without consistency,” so the challenge is one of “transforming this liquidity into concreteness,” Francis said, explaining that same concept also goes for the economy.
Using “concreteness” as his keyword for the point, the Pope said the “drama of today’s economy” is that there is a liquid economy, which leads to “a liquid society” with a high rate of unemployment.
Francis pointed to several European countries as examples and, without naming them, noted that specifically youth unemployment rates in several vary from 40-60 percent.
“I ask you the question: our dear mother Europe, the identity of Europe, how can one think that developed countries have youth unemployment so strong?” he said, explaining that the numbers are evidence that “this liquidity of the economy takes the concreteness of work, and takes the culture of work because one can’t work.”
In the absence of work, youth “don’t know what to do” and in the end fall into addictions or suicide, he said, adding that according to what he’s heard, “the true statistics of youth suicide are not published. The publish something, but it’s not the true statistics.”
Some youth even fall into terrorist groups, telling themselves “at least I have something to do that gives meaning to my life,” the Pope observed, adding that “it’s terrible.”
In order to solve the problems created by this type of “liquid economy,” concreteness is needed, he said, “otherwise it can’t be done.”
Universities must be the place in which this happens, he said, telling the students that “in the dialogue among you, also look for solutions to propose. The real problems against this liquid culture.” (Elise Harris/CNA/EWTN News)
VATICAN, Feb. 17, 2017-– Pope Francis received a delegation from the Special Olympics on Thursday, reflecting on the power of the event to spread joy and hope.
The Pope suggested that joy is at the heart of all sports: “the joy of exercising, of being together, of being alive and rejoicing in the gifts the Creator gives us each day.”
“Seeing the smile on your faces and the great happiness in your eyes when you have done well in an event – for the sweetest victory is when we surpass ourselves – we realize what true and well-deserved joy feels like!” the Pope said. “We can learn from you to enjoy small and simple pleasures, and to enjoy them together.”
The Special Olympics World Winter Games will take place in the Austrian state of Styria in March.
Pope Francis received the delegation at Clementine Hall Feb. 16. The delegation included athletes, organizers, and other representatives, including Bishop Wilhelm Krautwaschl of Graz-Seckau, whose diocese covers the state of Styria.
Pope Francis told them sports help to spread “a culture of encounter and solidarity.”
“Together, athletes and helpers show us that there are no obstacles or barriers which cannot be overcome,” he said. “You are a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society.”
“Every life is precious, every person is a gift and inclusion enriches every community and society,” the Pope continued. “This is your message for the world, for a world without borders, which excludes no one.”
“Sport is good for the body and the soul, and allows us to improve the quality of our lives,” he said. “The constant training, which also requires effort and sacrifice, helps you to grow in patience and perseverance, gives you strength and courage and lets you acquire and develop talents which would otherwise remain hidden.”
Pope Francis praised the athletes’ dedication and cited the Special Olympics athlete’s oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
“The Special Olympics World Winter Games will be a wonderful moment in your lives,” he told the delegation. “I wish you joyful days together, and time with friends from around the world. I entrust you to the protection of Mary Most Holy, and upon you, your families, and all participants, I invoke divine blessings. And, please, pray for me too.” (CNA/EWTN News)
7th Sunday of Year A (Matt 5:38-48)
February 19, 2011
By Fr Mike Lagrimas
A PRIEST was teaching on the topic of love. He asked the question to his listeners: “Who among you here do not have enemies?” An old man raised his hand. The priest was delighted. “Look at him! Such a perfect example of love! Tell us. What did you do?” The old man said, “Nothing. I have no more enemies because they are now all dead.”
Who likes enemies, anyway? Many would want them dead and gone! If not, at least we want to get even. That is the reason behind the law of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” mentioned by Jesus in the Gospel this Sunday. This is an ancient law written by a man named Hammurabi 4,300 years ago (cf. William Barclay). But far from encouraging revenge, it seeks to limit it. Before this law, the custom was to wipe out the entire tribe in retaliation for an offense of one tribe member. Hammurabi says that the only one to be punished is the culprit, sparing the rest of the tribe. And his punishment is commensurate to the offense done. The victim, in turn, cannot put the law into his hands and exact revenge. A judge has to decide on the case.
This law sounds rational and just. But for Christ, this is not enough. The law of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” will eventually make this world full of blind and toothless people! Revenge and violence are not Christian options. Christianity is rooted in the virtue of love. In fact, if we compress the entire Bible, we will come up with only one word – love. The word love appears in the Sacred Scriptures five hundred times. And St. Vincent de Paul, Apostle of Charity, was right is saying, “I have only one sermon, but I twist it a thousand times.” That sermon is about love.
Jesus always insists on this commandment – love God and neighbor – for three reasons. In the first place, it is because God is love. For one who loves, he becomes God-like. He challenged us: “Be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect.” Secondly, it is because Jesus knew how important it is for our life in this world. According to tradition, when the Apostle St. John was already old, he repeatedly says the same thing to his followers: “My dear children, love one another.” When asked why he repeats the same message over and over again, he explained: “Because it is the command of the Lord, and if it is done, it is enough.” Finally, the Lord insisted upon it because he knew it is never easy for us to love as he did. We need to be constantly reminded of it.
This Sunday, the Lord even goes further in his teaching about love of neighbor. He commanded us to love our enemies – the persons who make our life difficult. Surely, people in this world will consider this a crazy idea. Our enemies deserve to be hated; they ought not to be loved. But Jesus insisted: “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors, and offer no resistance to one who is evil.” He has the right to say this because he himself did it as he clearly showed us by his sufferings and death on the cross.
The Lord told us to love our enemies, and not to imitate or become like them. There is the saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” This cannot be applied to a Christian. The only way to beat the enemy is not by applying the “an eye for an eye” policy, but by loving them as proven true by the example of Jesus. A saying goes: “Love your enemies. It will drive them nuts!”
Most often we judge according to the standards of this world. If somebody hits us, we have to hit back. Otherwise, we will be perceived as weak and coward. That is what the world is telling us. But fighting against our enemies does not stop them from being enemies, just like fighting fire with fire. There is undeniable wisdom and truth in the use of love to stop our enemies, just as firefighters use water to stop the fire.
God dares us to be different from the world by conforming to His standards. As Christians, we do not belong to this world. The reason why many Christians have become irrelevant and insignificant in today’s society is because they simply follow and imitate the world. It is easy to spot a Muslim or Buddhist on the street by the way they dress and pray in public. But we can hardly say this for Christians. The challenge is set before us: we ought to be different – as light in darkness and salt on food – in order to become effective agents of renewal and transformation. And the supreme distinguishing factor is love – “This is how all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (Jn 13: 35).
This point is clearly illustrated in the example of thermometer and thermostat. When you bring a thermometer into the room, it simply records the temperature of the room. It changes itself to conform to the environment. The opposite is what happens with the thermostat. When you set the thermostat of the air conditioning unit or heater in the room, in a short while the room changes to the level of temperature the thermostat is set. It does not follow the environment, but changes it. [Adapted from “Hot Illustrations”, Youth Specialties, Inc., 2001.]
As Christians, we are not supposed to be just a thermometer. Instead, we must be the thermostat of the world – the leaven of society, the light of the world and the salt of the earth. By living and witnessing to the teachings of Christ, we ought to inspire and motivate the hearts of people and become effective agents of change and renewal, in order to hasten the coming of God’s kingdom in this world.
This commandment challenges us to go out of our way, to be different, and to go beyond the superficial and mediocre. If we love only those who love us, what merit is there in that? We have to learn to love as God loves us. Only then can we be known as true followers of Christ.
7th Sunday of Year A (Matt 5:38-48)
February 19, 2017
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
THE most destructive forces in the world are not nuclear weapons, earthquakes, and other death-sowing disasters. The most destructive force is hatred. This dreadful power disfigures and shatters the heart of man and society. Hatred is man’s greatest enemy, the anti-life force par excellence.
Only one force can oppose and overcome hatred and make up for its deadly effects: LOVE. Love is life. It has the power to renew the heart of man . . . to renew the face of the earth.
Love is God’s “invention.” It is God’s very life, for “God is Love” (1 Jn 4:8). Man and his world were brought into existence by Love. Love is what maintains them and guides them to their final “destination”—heaven.
Love is the heart of the world; the heart of whatever is beautiful, worthy and uplifting. Love has many faces, many “family names.” Depending on the circumstances and the needs of our “neighbor,” love becomes appreciation, acceptance, encouragement, self-forgetfulness, offering or accepting a gift, patient waiting or immediate action, a word of correction or quiet listening, a radiant smile or an intent look, timely help, and forgiveness . . . The actions performed may be the most diverse, but one is their root, the fundamental attitude that prompts them all: LOVE.
But in this world of ours, poisoned by sin and crippled by moral weakness, it is not easy to love everybody and at all times. We need a teacher and one who gives us the strength we need to put into practice what we have learned.
Jesus is that teacher. We need one to show us in practice how to love. God the Father, of course, is our first and most perfect model, for He created all things out of love and keeps them in existence out of love, as He “makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. But among all the innumerable “signs” of His love, none can equal the gift of His eternal Son, for “God so love the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).
And Jesus, as “the human face of God” or “love made flesh” is not only the most perfect manifestation of God’s love for us, but also our most perfect human model of how we should love both God and neighbor. For it was out of love for the Father that the man Jesus lived and suffered to the outmost. At the same time, it was out of love for mankind that he spent his whole life and endured such a terrible death in order that all might have life and have it to the full. (See Jn 10:10.)
But Jesus, is not just the “model” we have to look up to and imitate. He is also the source of the energy and strength that we need to do so, especially when loving becomes a hard test. Jesus is the one who infuses in us the strength that we need in order to love even our enemies and executioners, if it should happen, to the very end.
Among the many things that matter in life, one tops them all: LOVE. Of all the virtues we can practice, “there are three that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is LOVE” (1 Cor 13:13).
7th Sunday of Year A (Matt 5:38-48)
February 19, 2011
By Msgr. Lope C. Robredillo, SThD
“WAR is hell,” Gen William Tecumseh Sherman correctly noted, and its hellish character is exemplified in what has been called “the Balangiga Massacre”. As part of the pacification of the Visayas, the 37th Infantry Regiment of the US Army was sent to Balangiga in the island of Samar, Philippines, to garrison the town. In a few days, what started as a friendly relation between the natives and the soldiers turned sourish. On September 28, 1901, while all the 47 soldiers were having their breakfast, the local revolutionaries made a surprise attack, killing 54 of them, wounding the rest. Still, the “Americanos” were able to fight back, killing about 250 natives. In a few days, however, the payback time came. Gen Jake Smith ordered his men “to kill and burn”, shooting anyone capable of bearing arms, including boys above 10 years old. Hundreds of houses were burned, farm animals slaughtered, and, according to one writer, about 2,500 Samareños, mainly of southern part of the island, were killed. The revolutionaries sowed the wind, they reaped the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7).
Is this the way for Christians to respond to those who do them violence—almost unlimited vendetta? One is reminded of what Lamech said to his wives, “if Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times” (Gen 4:24). Some scholars say that this song of Lamech is probably the origin of the tribal sevenfold vengeance to obtain justice for killing a powerful leader (see 2 Sam 21:1-9). And it is against this background that one has to understanding the law of revenge that the Gospel adverts to: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Matt 5:38). This law, known as lex talionis, tit for tat, was part of the commandments given at Mt Sinai: “If there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exod 21:23-25). Although that law may appear savage to modern ears, yet in intent it was the beginning of mercy, as it limits revenge. In other words, it was meant to regulate boundless vendetta.
But for Jesus, even limited reprisal has no place in a Christian community. Which is why with authority he replaced the law of talion with another law—the law of non-resistance: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, ‘Do not resist an evil person” (Matt 5:39). In Jewish law, retaliation was a right, but for Jesus even this right has to be renounced. The force of this saying can be well appreciated if one recalls that during thetime of Jesus, there were already various groups and movements that sought to dislodge the hegemony of Rome, and it is not impossible that some in Jesus’ audience were being recruited to the cause of revolting against the Emperor, a movement that in fact culminated in the First Jewish Revolt Against Rome in 66-70 AD. Here was an empire that used violence against its subjects; and would it be right—the question was certainly raised–for a Christian to ground his action on lex talionis? The law of Moses grants a Jew a right to make revenge, but Jesus would ask his followers to renounce it, offering no armed resistance.
In the Gospel, Jesus gave three examples of applying this principle:  The first concerns suffering physical violence: “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (v 39).  The second prohibits meeting a legal action with another legal action: “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well” (v 40).  And the third is about accepting force labor with cheerfulness: “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (v 41). If Jesus urged non-retaliation, the motive, as noted in the Gospel last Sunday, is none other love. He wanted to perfect this love by perfecting respect for any person, even one’s enemies. Love is shown by ending retaliation and resentment, and by offering no resistance to injury. If it would seem that justice has little place, it is probably because justice, without love, may just be a cloak for one’s vindictiveness. Love is shown in suffering (cf 1 Cor 13:4-7).
Of course, Jesus walked his talk. When one of his companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the High Priest, he said to him, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw their sword will die by the sword” (Matt 26:52). Notice that it was in his power to take revenge, but he did not use it to destroy his enemies: “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (v 53-54). But he came to bring God’s love for men, even for those in power who wanted to murder him. Indeed, it was to fulfill this plan of God that he came: “But how then the Scriptures be fulfilled that say, it must happen in this way?” (v 54). Thus, Jesus was clearly determined to follow the path of non-retaliation, a path which God himself has outlined for his Son. This principle of non-resistance is echoed by St Paul: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21).
Thus, we see a powerful Jesus not using his power to destroy his enemies, but allowing himself to be liquidated instead. To suffer indignity and humiliation, instead of retaliating—this is the challenge. When a committee of congressmen conceived the idea of transferring some troops in the east to the west, and some in the west to the east, Abraham Lincoln agreed and told the committee to see Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War. Hearing that the President was agreed to the plan, Stanton told the congressmen that Lincoln “was a d-d fool.” When this was related to the President, Lincoln commented, “He [Stanton] must be correct, as I have yet to know of Stanton being wrong.” True, one might say that the principle is applicable at the personal level, but can this be applied in other situations, like the relationship between nations? But, why not? Would it be Christian to destroy Basilan or Jolo on account of the evils that the Abu Sayaf fighters have been engaged in? Would it be right to obliterate a country because the followers of Saddam Hussein continue to upset the work of peace? Of course, the logic of power would dictate that that would be right approach, but one wonders whether it can claim to be Christian.
MANILA, Feb. 18, 2017–Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila reminded the faithful of their duty to be witnesses to the truth that human life is sacred in all areas of life–and not just when time and situation call for it.
The cardinal made a surprise appearance early Saturday at the Quirino Grandstand, where thousands of Catholics participated in the “Walk for Life”.
He said the faithful must always carry this witness by word and by example everyday of the week and “in all corners of society”.
“Let’s not stop walking for life. We should do it everyday,” said Tagle. “Nothing will happen if we will not walk for life everyday.”
The Manila archbishop also lamented the current spread of the “culture of violence” in the country, referring the spate of extrajudicial killings and moves in Congress to revive the death penalty.
And an even greater cause for concern, he said, is the indifference of many to these violence.
“It’s sad to see, and sometimes tearful, that it’s becoming just a normal thing,” he said.
Echoing Pope Francis’ message for this year’s World Day of Peace, Cardinal Tagle called for a renewed culture of “active non-violence” in addressing the country’s challenges.
He said that non-violence is not passive as Jesus was a tireless worker of love in action.
“Non-violence does not mean it is passive. Active. But we believe that we cannot stop violence also by violence,” said Tagle.
“If the response to violence is also violence, we double the violence. We shouldn’t be doubling or propagating violence. We should match it with non-violence,” he added. “Strength, not violence.”
Organized by an organization of lay people, the Walk for Life was staged to demonstrate their opposition to summary killings and the death penalty.
It was the first of its kind in recent years that various lay groups come together to pray, stand up, and defend the sanctity of life.
Among the participants came from the Couples for Christ, the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines and El Shaddai,
He added that the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, and the Manila Archdiocesan and Parochial Schools Association are also joining the early morning event. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)
MANILA, Feb. 18, 2017–Catholics and other Christian groups converged at the nation’s capital for a prayer rally at pre-dawn Saturday.
With the nation reeling from widespread drug-related violence, speakers at Walk for Life spoke of the challenges Filipinos are facing.
Mrs. Zenaida Capistrano, president of the Council of the Laity of the Philippines, said the rally wanted to demonstrate that life is sacred.
“Life is just borrowed from God, it must be cared for most of the time,” Capistrano said.
“Let’s hope that our walking would lead us to a path of understanding and the fulfillment of our goals,” she said.
Thousands of lay people rallied at the Quirino Grandstand, pressing for an end to extrajudicial killings and to oppose the reimposition of death penalty.
A sea of white shirts, hallmark of the pro-life movement, took over the area and filled it with prayers along with some bishops, priests, and religious men and women.
The CLP, founded in 1950, includes a coalition of diocesan and national lay organizations and movements and has been serving as the strong arm of the Church for lay apostolate.
With their calls for prayer and unity, speakers generally focused on spiritual rather political solutions to the nation’s problems. The event had been encouraged by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Rallyists walked around the area of the grandstand, praying the rosary while carrying banners and placards with the words “No to extrajudicial killings” and “No to death penalty”.
Some students’ sign read, “Yes to life, no to culture of death,” while another poster said, “Thou shall not kill”. “Defend life,” proclaimed a banner of the Knights of Columbus.
Organizers claimed around 20,000 people attended the prayer rally from at least 21 Catholic dioceses in Luzon and from other Christian churches.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP President, said it is encouraging that many people are taking a stand with the issues the country is facing.
“The outcome was unexpected. We wanted this big but we did not expect that many people will come,” Villegas said.
“It means that there’s a need that they would want to express themselves. These people were not forced to join. It’s early in the morning and many come from far places,” he said.
Organizers said among the participants come from as far as the Mountain province, Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija and Batangas. (CBCPNews)
ILOILO City, Feb. 18, 2017 – The 24th CFC – Singles for Christ International Conference (SFC ICON) opened on Feb. 17, Friday, with a message on discipleship that exhorted thousands of singles to not just preach but to reach out to others.
“Sometimes we meet people experiencing hopelessness but Pope Francis reminds us to be more welcoming, to accompany and so as disicples of Christ, building His Church not only through preaching but reaching [out],” Fr. Randy Doromal, Jaro Archdiocesan Commission for Family and Life (CFL) director, told SFC ICON 2017 delegates coming from some 21 countries gathered at the West Visayas State University.
He added: “We strive to accompany to make others feel our presence, our connectedness.”
‘Language of love’
Concelebrating the Mass with other priests, including Fr. Ian Rosal, SDB, Doromal said reaching out is possible through the “language of love.”
“In our Gospel today, Jesus challenges us to become His disicples…The prerequisite is denial of self, not to build the name but to build His Church. Using the language of faith, using the language of love and hope in our very own words, not to preach but to reach [others],” said the priest.
Speaking to attendees from all over the Philippines and countries like Canada, U.S., Poland, Papua New Guinea, Australia, among others, Doromal said: “Using the language of love, let us give them the hope of reconciliation with self, with God, with others.”
According to him, there is a need to “make others feel that we belong, and in this Church we belong.” “Through the language of love, we are called to care for each other not according to our interest and our good, but let us also have the interest of other’s good.”
Asking the Mass attendees to go and live the Gospel, Doromal expressed the hope that “our presence starting today until Sunday will be a source of reaching out that we are able to become apostles of reconciliation through the language of faith, love.”
“Let us give each other the opportunity and the reason to hope,” he stressed.
Being of agents of reconciliation
The priest specifically pointed out the need to heal damaged relationships.
“…(W)hile people experience [a] rift of relationships, through the
language of love, through the language of faith, we give them hope, the hope of healing. Building the mystical body of Christ not only through preaching but to reach,” stressed Doromal.
Ending his homily, he called on singles from around the world to work towards “reconciliation, empowerment, accompaniment, caring for one another.”
This year’s SFC ICON themed “All Out for Christ” is inspired by 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 “Be on guard, stand firm in the faith. Be courageous and strong. Your every act should be done in love.” (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz / CBCPNews)
ILOILO CITY, Feb. 17, 2017– The world’s biggest gathering of Singles for Christ (SFC) opened on Saturday with a Mass in solidarity with the Walk for Life in Manila.
More than 5,400 participants from at least 21 countries are currently gathered in Iloilo City for this year’s SFC International Conference.
In his homily, Fr. Randy Doromal of the Jaro Archdiocesan Commission on Family and Life deplored a growing and widespread “culture of death” and urged the young people to witness the sanctity of life.
“We experience deterioration of values and the coming up of different cultures; not culture of life but the culture of death,” said Doromal, who is also the spiritual director of Couples for Christ in Iloilo.
“We meet people who are experiencing hopelessness but Pope Francis reminds us to be more welcoming and accompanying” he said.
The SFC, as a pro-family and pro-life organization, has committed to stand and defend life and it is in events like this that the direction of their ministry is being brought down to the rest of the members through various talks, sharing and workshops.
“We are deliberately including this in our program, we pray the rosary and we have everyday mass offering and praying, not just [for] Walk for Life but also to intercede for our government leaders,” SFC international coordinator Noli Manuel said.
“We, being stewards of this beautiful life that we have we ought to protect it at all times,” he said.
In Manila, thousands of people are expected to attend the “Walk for Life” at the Quirino Grandstand on Saturday.
Organized by the Council of the Laity of the Philippines, the prayer rally aims to dramatize their stand against extrajudicial killings and move to reimpose the death penalty. (Chrixy Paguirigan/CBCPNews)